Zbigniew Pakuła
Rodzina Krasnokuckich
Od Lewej: Anna Krasnikucka, Lala Ajlenberg i jej syn Josi
Elżbieta, córka Anny z mężem przed kamienicą przy ulicy Mickiewicza w Poznaniu. Fot. Zbigniew Pakuła

She came to Poland with her daughter Elżbieta in 2004 to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the liquidation of the ghetto in Łódź. They had not expected such crowds. More than five thousand people came, and there were 1,500 of the Survivors. They took part in the memorial march from the Jewish cemetery to the Radegast station[i]. Moved, they listened to Eliezer Zyskind speaking at the cemetery. He talked about life in the ghetto and about hiding with his family for several days in a graveyard, among tombstones, to avoid deportation. "The worst was the downpour which soaked us to the bone," he said. When he recalled the days of the Szpera in 1942[ii], his voice broke: "The Jews were ordered to give up all the children. I saw carts with kids in their best clothes. The girls had coloured ribbons in their hair. They thought they were going to the celebration. Now we have come here from all over the world to fulfil the will of our ancestors."

The celebrations lasted three days. Anna and Elżbieta participated in a concert of cantors performing with the Choir of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. They listened to the Polish Prime Minister, Marek Belka, and Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv. They were at the creation of the Survivors' Park when Halina Elczewska planted the first tree of memory. And under one of the two memorial European oaks when a boulder commemorating the tragic events of 1944 was unveiled.


"Let's go to Poznań," she said to Elżunia. "I will show you the house in which I lived, the Jewish school, the area of the synagogue at Stawna Street." While she was on the train, her childhood pictures were mixing with fearful thoughts about what had survived from her old memories. She remembered that it was not far from the station to Mickiewicza Street. "It will take us very little time." A few minutes passed and they stopped at the tenement house number seven. "We lived on the third floor in a nice four-room apartment," she said to her daughter. Our neighbours were three Jewish families. Józef Ajlenberg and his wife lived on the ground floor. It was a young couple that came from Łódź to Poznań in 1928. The following year, their daughter Felicja was born and later their son Michaś. Józef's wife was called Raca (Roma), and her maiden name was Kronenberg. They were related to the Kronenbergs living in Poznań. One of them ran a shop on Wielka Street and was quite wealthy. The second one had a son, Hersz, who was my friend in school. Two Jewish merchants also lived in our tenement house: Mojżesz Kon and Samuel Rutenberg. Zina, Samuel's wife, came from Petrograd, he was from Białystok. They had a son, Jurek, a year or two younger than me. Zina was very cordial and caring. She was working in the Society for Aid to Poor Jews "Achi-Eser". Leon Rutenberg, Samuel's younger brother, also lived at Mickiewicza Street. They visited each other often, living only a few steps away from each other. Most of the Jewish families lived near the Old Market Square. But here, in Jeżyce, there were also a dozen or so of them. Berta Kantorowicz, a teacher at the Jewish elementary school, lived in the tenement house next door. The Kantorowiczs built beautiful villas at Mickiewicza Street. They were wealthy but after the First World War they left for Germany. There were also tenements of other wealthy merchants: Naphtali and Salo Hamburgers, the Simons, the Davidsons. Their houses had rich ornaments, stucco decorations and unusually shaped roofs. Jurek Herszberg, whose sister Ania was my good friend, lived at Patron Jackowski Street. Next to them lived merchants Szaja Joel and Israel Silberberg from Koło. I don't remember if they had children. Zygmunt Bauman, who lived on Prusa Street, became a famous professor after the war. He had an older sister, Tauba, who settled in Israel after the war. His father, Moryc, came from Słupca and was a merchant[iii].

It was said that this was a prestigious street. Previously, it was called Hohenzollern Street. The apartments for rent were probably expensive, which means Dad was doing quite well. I liked walking down the street in the direction of Dąbrowski Street until I could see the theatre building, or rather its onion-shaped cupola. It seemed to shine differently every day. There was a pharmacy on the corner and opposite it stood the magnificent seat of the insurance company. It was my way to school on Noskowskiego Street. My favourite teacher was Franciszka Propstowa. She taught us the love of Polish culture. She adored Piłsudski. After he died, she sent condolences on behalf of the school. The reply she received was framed and hung at school. On the anniversary of his death, she organized assemblies; and we also celebrated Independence Day. I was with Propstowa on a trip to Krakow, where we went to build the Piłsudski Mound.

There were probably more than a hundred Jewish children in the school[iv]. I had my friends: Rola Sochaczewska, Hania Auerbach, Ania Herszberg. Out of the boys, I best remember Noach Lasman, Jurek Janowski, Natek (Nuchim) and Janek Dunkelmann, Felek Lupka. I remember the last one from the rehearsals to "The Revenge". Felek didn't have much of a role. All he had to do was go on stage and say one sentence: "The wheel in the carriage is fixed." He studied his part for three weeks and could not master it. The performances took place in one of the classrooms, which had a small stage – podium where the teachers' desk stood during lessons. We took our program to the Jewish retirement home to make the lives of suffering residents more pleasant.

I also went to school in the afternoons to read magazines subscribed by Propstowa. There were no Jewish children's newspapers among them, especially not “Mały Przegląd” which my father sometimes bought for us. Out of the selection, I remember "Płomyk" which was published every week. I liked reading letters from children printed by the editorial office there. There were a dance class and a school choir in the afternoon; lessons were conducted by Wanda Jordanówna. I was also taught by Hanna Mornelowa who was much younger and happier than Propstowa[v]. Brokman's daughter ran the library[vi]. There were many poor children among us, and our teachers organized meals for them in the school kitchen. Students were given a cup of milk and a hunk of bread. After some time, the kitchen was closed and turned into a classroom because the number of children increased every year.

There have been unpleasant incidents like when someone threw stones at the windows of the school. The parents were distraught because it happened during the lesson. The rock flew through the broken windows and could have hurt someone[vii]. If the weather was fine, we went out to play in the schoolyard during breaks. There was a garden next to it, where we had classes beginning in spring. We were always fixing things because it wasn't fenced in, so dogs and maybe malicious people were roaming around it. Propstowa fought for getting a hedge for the courtyard and a fence to surround the garden. In the end, the boys built a makeshift wall of slats and boards during design and technology class.

Time was moving fast and soon I finished six grades. Some of us continued their education in the seventh grade at Noskowski Street. I was admitted to the Dąbrówka female humanities gymnasium at Młyńska Street. I passed the exam and started learning wearing a black uniform with a beret. The school was private, and parents had to pay over PLN 100 in tuition fees. I have no good memories of that school; it was filled with anti-Semitism. The history teacher was the worst; she only spoke hatefully of the Jews. The other pupils were very malicious. They were sneaking garlic to our things and made fun of us. In my class, I had a Jewish friend Reginka Szwarc. Were there more of us at school? I do not remember. When I came to Poznań after the war, I did not find either the school at Noskowski Street or the one at Młyńska.

Reginka came from Germany. Her family was run out to Zbąszyń in November 1938. When they arrived in Poznań, she joined my class. The Szwarcs were probably wealthy since they rented a flat with ten rooms. Once Reginka and her sister Hanka invited me to their place. I went to see them with Ania, Jurek Herszberg's sister. When we pressed the doorbell, Reginka opened the window and threw us the key. What was the fate of her family during the war? I do not know. Most importantly, as Poznań Jews, we helped those who moved to Poznań from the Zbąszyń camp. We welcomed in our apartment several people expelled from Germany as well.


What do I remember from Poznań? The Hirschlik restaurant at Pocztowa Street which our parents used to visit. A shop with cold cuts of the Dawidowski brothers; sometimes my mother, Matla, sent me shopping to them. She had no problem with that because we were non-religious and my father only visited the synagogue on Yom Kippur. I would go to the bookstore at Święty Marcin to get my books. I would buy ice cream at Wolności Square. I was running around the city with my friends. One of them, Bela Serebryjska, had a handsome brother - Idel (Jurek) was several years older than us. Their father, Nachmann Serebryjski, ran a diner with his wife, Leja. They lived at 4 Tama Garncarska Street and their neighbours were the Janowscy family, whose son, Jurek, we knew well. There weren't many of us, maybe fifty kids in one year, perhaps a hundred. So we knew each other quite well.

I was waiting for the premieres at the Opera. Whenever something new appeared in the repertoire, I was in the audience. I remember a Japanese woman who played Madame Butterfly and a concert by a Jewish violinist, Henryk Szeryng. He was still very young, and so he played in Poznań wearing shorts. At the show, precisely at midnight, I was with my parents. It was a celebration for Poznań Jews. And when Kiepura was coming, I was already running to the Hotel Bazar myself, first listening to the crowds shouting: "Sing, Jasiu!" And then listening to his arias and songs. I can still see him standing on the balcony. He sang for people even when he was driving his open car through the streets of the city. When he performed in the Auditorium, he would go out to the balcony for the break to sing for those who, who did not get the tickets, or maybe couldn't afford them.  (...)


[i] It was from this place that on August 29, 1944, the last transport of Łódź Jews left for Auschwitz.

[ii] On September 5, the Germans entered the ghetto, announcing the Wielka Szpera (absolute ban on leaving the place of residence). Between September 5–12, 1942, 15,681 "people unfit for work" (children up to 10 years of age, the elderly, the sick) were displaced from the Łódź ghetto. About 600 people were murdered on the spot.

[iii] They moved from Słupca in 1921 and initially rented a flat at 8 Masztalarska Street.

[iv] 172 children attended the school in the school year 1932/1933.

[v] Hanna (Helena) Mornelowa (nee Brokman) from Sieradz was the wife of a merchant named Salomon from Słupca and lived at 15 Szwajcarska Street.

[vi] It was probably Rywka Brokman from Sieradz, a student. She lived with the Mornels at 15 Szwajcarska Street.

[vii] The incident took place on December 13, 1932, at 12:30.

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